Confessions of an Introvert

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Growing up as an introvert… sigh…

The story I share with you here is not a general overview of my life, but rather a focus on a particular quality I was born with and how this quality affected the progression of my life – and how it has shaped me into the person I am today.

See, I believe with my whole heart that we’re all born with innate qualities and a unique essence that shape the person we become as we go through life – these qualities often start coming out while we are still babies and are not yet socialized.

I also believe that these innate qualities and our nature don’t always manifest themselves into apparent advantages and many times we consider them to be flaws. We consider them to be areas that need to be fixed and changed.

But I hope the story I share with you demonstrates this is not always the case.

Anyone who really knows me would say I am two things: an introvert and very analytical. If you ask my parents, they will tell you I was this person from the very beginning of my life – or as soon as my personality started to emerge.

Growing up an introvert wasn’t easy.

As a child I was painfully aware of my shyness and I didn’t feel very special as I had a hard time fitting in socially: For the most part, I didn’t really want to participate in group activities, I didn’t like being in the spot light, I definitely didn’t like public speaking, and I didn’t even have a lot of friends. I preferred to stay at home and do solo activities.

I was OK when I spoke to people 1 on 1. But group settings were very challenging for me. If you are an introvert, you will know EXACTLY what I  mean.

When I found myself in social situations, I would usually withdraw. Instead of being a part of the group, I would stay in the background and observe the scenarios around me.

And being the introvert observer, I noticed everything: how people interacted with each other, how they treated others, and how they reacted to each other. I also paid attention to what people said: the words they chose to speak, how these words affected others, and how their own words affected their own behaviour.

But observing usually got pretty boring and I often wished I was a different person: I wished I had more friends, I wished I could fit in, I wished I had the courage to participate in social activities, I wished I could say the right thing at the right time.

There were many times I was jealous of my peers who always seemed to have something funny to say, they knew how to behave and how to fit in and everyone always thought the best of them. At the time, I never really understood why they fit in and I didn’t – they always appeared to be regular people – kinda like me.

Except, they had that spark that I did not.

Growing up as an introvert had other challenges as well:

  1. My parents thought I was too shy. They thought I needed to be more social and continuously pushed me to situations and places I didn’t want to be – they couldn’t understand my preference to be on my own
  2. For most of my life, I didn’t feel good enough – I hardly ever felt like I compared to others in social situations – and I often felt self-conscious and clumsy (verbally and behaviorally).

Thinking back… I now think my negative opinion of myself probably came from observing others’ attitude and opinion of me. I usually heard adults speak about my shyness and quietness with a negative undertone.

  1. Being the quiet introvert made me the perfect candidate for being bullied – I hardly ever came up with a quick response that would make the bully think twice about coming back for seconds – and when I had something to say, I was too afraid to say it in front of everyone

I would say, up until university this is how life was. As an introvert, I stayed in the background – and since there isn’t much else to do back there I continued to observe people and situation around me.

In my 20s, I started opening up a little more. And now in my 30s, while I am still very much an introvert – most people can’t really tell anymore.

But looking back, I wouldn’t say those years were a waste.

After spending years in the background and observing those around me I gained some important skills. For example it’s become easy for me:

  1. To quickly pick up on any type of social pattern – specifically people’s behaviour
  2. Listen well and read between the lines
  3. Read facial expressions and body language. I’ve learned to recognize when the words we speak don’t match what we are really thinking
    1. I’ve learned that it is our ACTUAL thoughts that are directly reflected in our body language and facial expression – not necessary the words we are speaking out loud
      1. It is a lot easier for words to be dishonest than it is for beahviour
    2. To easily develop a rapport with those around me. I’ve learned to pick up on other people’s emotions, recognize them for what they are and make them feel comfortable while speaking to me (yes, even though I am an introvert, my social skills are excellent now).

My lifelong role of observing people has:

  1. Helped me build a high level of emotional intelligence (All those years of being an introvert who stood in the background and subconsciously analyzed allowed me to learn more about people than any course I could sign up for today)
  2. Fostered my love for psychology

So, while in the past I felt that I was one of those people who were born with a disadvantage – I had inadequate social skills and for me… it didn’t get much worse than that – I’ve come to interpret it all differently now.

In addition to gaining the skills I just shared, I’ve learned to respect the person that I am – because it is the person I was in the past that has shaped me into the person I am today, and it is the person I am today that has shaped me into the person I will become in the future.

And I’ve learned a few more things along the way that has give me a good foundation for a strong self-confidence:

  1. It is OK to be a quiet person and there really isn’t anything wrong with me (the world can’t have too many loud people anyways)
  2. To give myself the quiet time I need to re-energize by using this time in a stimulating way – which means doing something creative (for me creativity is writing and sharing knowledge)
  3. Thanks to my parents, I learned that it’s important to push myself outside of my comfort zone (into unwanted situations) – otherwise I get bored with life.
  4. In life, I have to follow my own path and timeline when it comes to my development. I now have collected enough experience to know that I will get to where I need to be at just the right time
  5. Most importantly, I’ve learned to stop comparing myself with others – we are all on a different journey with different innate skills – so there is nothing to compare. One, journey isn’t less important than anyone else’s journey. And two, if I chose to compare, one of us will always come out a loser. Not fair!

Today, I know that my most valuables abilities have come from the very place I disliked about myself when I was younger.

The issue was that while growing up, I wasn’t able to foresee where my introversion would take me. Neither could my parents. They often tell me I have a natural gift when it comes to interacting with people – to this day they don’t recognize that whatever people skills I have have come from being that shy child they tried so hard to change.

The best part for me, I feel that my introverted personality continues to contribute to my development as a person and a woman and I am excited to see who I will become in 10 years, 20 years, even 50 years down the road. From time to time, I even wonder if I am the only person who looks forward to growing older.

But most importantly, I now see how my unique nature is not a flaw – something that needs to be changed – but a gift that I can use to enhance the quality of my life and those of others.